Hamlet to Ophelia | Words, Words, Words | Pinterest
“Hamlet to Ophelia.” College English April 1955: 403-415
Polonius acquires a love letter from Hamlet to Ophelia. He then reads it aloud to the court. How humiliating for them both. Timeless audiences of young people have cringed to imagine a parent coming across their love notes and making them public.
Polonius acquires a love letter from Hamlet to Ophelia
“No, not I, I never gave you aught” – Hamlet to Ophelia as she attempts to return gifts that he gave her in the past. His response may suggest that he views this ‘new’ Ophelia as a stranger. His view of women has certainly suffered.
The mind of Hamlet after the silent struggle with Ophelia, when he in a state of somnambulism entered her apartment unannounced, cannot better be described than he does in his famous soliloquy. The King who fears his "turbulent and dangerous lunacy," consents to the plan of Polonius, whereby Hamlet is to meet Ophelia in order that the King and Polonius "may of their encounter frankly judge, and gather by him as he is behaved, if 't be the afflictions of his love or no that thus he suffers." Ophelia, at the suggestion of her father, pretends to be reading a book, while the King and Polonius are hid from view, but in hearing. Hamlet, oblivious of the presence of any one, soliloquizes:Extremely pleased, Claudius says he will answer the petition later, for he is at the end of his patience in waiting to hear Polonius' report on Hamlet. Polonius is tickled to be center stage and promises to be brief in his account - "since brevity is the soul of wit" - but he just isn't quite the master rhetorician that he fancies himself. He babbles at length, even after Gertrude interrupts him with an impatient "More matter with less art" (i.e. "Give me substance, not flowery phrases!"). Quoting a letter from Hamlet to Ophelia, Polonius declares that Hamlet's affectionate words to his daughter betray an obsessive and unrequited love. The words he reads aloud seem quite natural to a young lover, so Polonius finds it necessary to explain further: Ophelia, having followed her father's commands, has exasperated Hamlet by ignoring his advances, to the point where the love-sick Hamlet has now lost his mind. The King and Queen are neither convinced nor unconvinced by Polonius' diagnosis. They therefore agree to observe in secret an interaction between Hamlet and Ophelia.